Virgin Startup of the Week: Trousseau Jewels
What's it like to see a photo of a celebrity - and realise that they're wearing your product? That happened to our latest StartUp of the Week, Urvi Vora of Trousseau Jewels, a business creating beautiful handmade jewellery. Already her products have caused a splash, worn by the likes of Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and applauded by fashionistas. We caught up with founder Urvi over a cuppa.
Business name: Trousseau Jewels
Founder name: Urvi Vora
Loan funds received: 25K
Based in: London
1. Explain your business in the time it would take the kettle to boil or drink to be poured
I’m the founder and designer behind a semi-precious jewellery brand named Trousseau that I set up after graduating from the London College of Fashion. It focuses on a gap in the luxury market that I recognized a few years ago. As the consumer become more aware of sustainability and the negative aspects behind 'fast fashion', they are moving towards buying investment pieces of clothing and jewellery instead.
The jewellery itself is fashion-forward and can hence be seen adorning celebrities from Cheryl Fernandez-Versini to Cynthia Erivo! We currently have two branches to the collections; Trousseau LIMITED, which are statement one-off pieces and Trousseau Ready-to-Wear that is more mass produced but essentially simpler jewellery more suitable for every day wear. Both collections are inspired by tribal elements from my travels across Central America, Africa and India.
2. Where are you based and why is it a good location for your business?
Finsbury Park - London really is the hub of fashion in the UK so there’s no better place to be for us. More importantly, it’s one of the best places to network and connect with like-minded entrepreneurs and look for opportunities for growth!
3. How did you come up with the idea?
In my final year at London College of Fashion, I was fascinated with the bridal trousseaus that women through history had collected. What intrigued me most was the amount of thought and preparation that went into an individual trousseau and the length of time it would take to amass the pieces for it. In some cases their parents would start collecting pieces of jewellery, clothing, china and linen from the point they were born!
In the here and now, relationships and traditions have evolved and women no longer look at marriage, the customs related to it and investing in their wardrobe the same way. I’d been brought up to buy less but buy well and a principle my mother had always instilled in me was to buy pieces of clothing or jewellery that would serve as an investment and last me a long time. So the concept of fast, disposable fashion and how it harmed our environment and led to unethical practices really angered me when I started to look into production as a designer.
Trousseau initially started out as an investment fusion-clothing venture, but with time I could see that my skills lay in jewellery designing and I started to spend a lot of time in India, learning the process behind how jewellery was made. As my jewel sales and the story behind them started to carry our brand vision forward, I decided to apply for a Virgin StartUp loan to grow the business further.
4. What’s the business model?
We started off selling pieces direct to customers and focussed on developing a loyal client base, but we are now growing in the direction of selling to businesses so that our brand reaches a wider market. There’s been a steep learning curve involved in this, which we’re still on!
5. Who are your competitors?
Our design inspirations are unique, but we're competing against other luxury jewellery brands. With our ethos and focus on personal branding I think we have a little edge above other semi-precious jewellery brands, as we’re dedicated to educating our customer and giving them more than just a piece of jewellery.
At the same time we’re a fairly small business at the moment and it will take time to build excitement around the brand and its vision, but it’s catching on fast. We actually have a term for this across our social media accounts - it’s called getting #TrousseauFever!
6. What’s unique about your business?
Great jewellery is always going to be the epitome of what we do! However what sets us apart is the travel inspirations behind the designs and the ability to personalize each piece for our clients in-house, as the majority of our jewellery is hand-made.
7. What stage was your business at when you applied for the Start Up Loan?
I first started talking to a Virgin Mentor at the start of this year when Trousseau was still in it’s early startup stages. I had the vision and jewellery designs but hadn’t quite figured out our market position or how I was going to go about growing the brand.
8. How have you used it to grow your business?
The loan has mainly been used to create our new Ready-to-Wear collection and strengthen our online and trade show presence. We’re now getting ready to launch our new e-commerce website in time for Christmas sales as well as launch the new collection during Paris Fashion Week in March. This simply wouldn’t have been possible so fast without the loan.
10. How has your mentor helped you?
Rob, my mentor, was instrumental in helping me realize that I had some invaluable intellectual property behind the brand and that we had a unique market position ahead of our competitors as far as our product was concerned. I’d only considered expanding the business slightly at the point of applying for a loan, and hadn’t really thought about the bigger picture. However, our sessions gave me an amazing confidence boost when I needed it most, and really helped me to number-crunch and see we were growing at a faster rate than I realised. Business plans don’t always come easy when you’re a creative head sometimes so it was great to have that guidance!
11. Who is your regional delivery partner and how did they help you get a Virgin StartUp loan?
I applied directly through Virgin StartUp.
10. Biggest achievement so far?
Having the gorgeous Cheryl Fernandez-Versini wear our Cracked Gold Onyx Cuff from our Trousseau LIMITED range for her perfume launch was pretty awesome! I don’t think words can quite describe it well enough, but anyone who owns a business will get this!
As a designer you spend months and months on a collection and at times your business becomes your baby. So to see your brand name splashed across pages for the first time in national magazines and papers alongside other high-end designer brands is a pretty epically proud moment!
11. What’s next for your business?
There are extremely exciting times ahead for us as a brand, but for the moment we’re fully focussed on launching our e-commerce website in a few weeks - so don’t forget to get a #TrousseauFix for Christmas! We’re also getting the new collection prepped for Autumn/Winter 16 at Paris Fashion Week.